A study on theories of VR shopping

Credibility of Study

This study systematically reviews a body of 72 research papers (83 studies) that investigated VR retail.

The results are further analysed from 51 experiment-based empirical studies.

Sixteen future research avenues related conceptual, thematic, methodological and technological issues are discussed.

The definition of VR and features of VR shopping experience are proposed in conceptual agenda.


Virtual reality is defined as a medium by its interactivity, three-dimensionality, and real-time response to action (Whyte, 2002). In this way, virtual reality offers the chance to arouse an immersion state of being deeply engaged in the virtual environment (Sherman & Craig, 2002), which makes interactions between the users and the virtual environment more intuitive and natural, and can potentially accelerate initial learning and familiarization processes within simulated environments (Schnack et al., 2019).

These affordances are now being similarly connected with the hype of increased VR-based shopping, which changes the way consumers perceive and evaluate products and services (Papagiannidis et al., 2017).

Relevant theories in VR shopping research

Affective appraisal theory

Any environment (VR shopping) produces an emotional state in an individual that can be characterized in terms of three main emotions, i.e. pleasure, arousal, and dominance (PAD).

Presence (telepresence) theory

The extent to which an individual perceives himself or herself to be present in a medium-mediated environment (e.g. VR) as if they were in the real world.

Flow theory

Flow refers to the optimal state of user experience when one is fully immersed in the activity; the enhanced experiences of consumer flow is positively related to the behavioural intentions to use VR technology.

Self-persuasion theory

Self-persuasion is indirect and entails placing people in situations where they are motivated to persuade themselves to change. The theory suggests that VR can provide more open and intrusive ads because the process of deciphering the indirect metaphorical claim serves is a form of self-persuasion.

Expectation-confirmation theory

The interactivity of VR allows consumers to more clearly understand how a product can be used, or if the fit of the product can be evaluated, consumers should feel more comfortable making purchase decisions.

Uses and gratification theory (U&G)

U&G theory have demonstrated that entertainment is a crucial psychological factor for users; VR shopping can significantly enhance the feeling of pleasure that consumers can derive while shopping.

Involvement theory

Brands can use VR through both routes – high and low involvement– to boost consumer outcomes, such as purchase behaviour, satisfaction, and brand loyalty

Social cue hypothesis

Combined with media equation hypothesis, consumers’ responses to the social cues that artificial social agents in VR display will be comparable to their responses to social cues by humans.

Social presence theory

Social presence is the level of behavioural and emotional response during (and due to) social interaction with another individual. The social presence may be vastly affected by the social context assigned to a VR environment and the subsequent social interaction that is taking place within it.

Media richness theory

It suggests that VR enhances the shopping experience of users by increasing media richness, which persuades consumers to purchase products or services.

Stimuli-organism-response framework (S-O-R)

The technological stimuli used in immersive technology (VR) evoke individuals’ cognitive and affective states, which in turn leads to behavioural changes.


The benefits of VR shopping go away beyond playing a game and having fun. If done correctly a VR experience can make another human being feel something, this is in itself is the most powerful thing in the world.

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